SOME THOUGHTS ON TIME, ETERNITY AND GODby Steve Timm on 07/13/17
SOME THOUGHTS ON TIME, ETERNITY AND GOD
When I was a young adult, I spent five years as an apprentice watchmaker. Eventually, I became a journeyman and was licensed in the State of Oregon.
After serving as an apprentice for a couple of years my mentor, Vern Henry, gave me a small book with a lofty title. The book was entitled TIME.
Vern told me, “Steve, my son, I own a copy of this book that was given to me by the master I apprenticed under. TIME is now long out of print, but I thought you’d enjoy having your own copy. Please read it.”
And, of course, I read it.
TIME starts out in a most unusual way; basically, the author begins with several concepts of time. Then, he goes on to talk about Saint Augustine and the fact that the great Doctor of the Church was absolutely fascinated by time.
By that point in my life, I had been a Closet Catholic for many years and I’d read literally every one of Augustine’s writings that I could find. I loved the blending of Catholic theology and my new occupation, that of repairing instruments that could actually measure the passage of time.
The balance of the book that Vern gave me was equally scholarly and it discussed everything from the early water clocks to the modern jeweled-escapement timepieces. After reading the book several times, I considered it a little secret gem.
To this day, I still re-read TIME about every five years.
SAINT AUGUSTINE AND TIME
After having studied Christianity for the bulk of my lifetime, I would have to state that, in the 2,000 years that the Church has been in existence, there have been two preeminent theologians. The two men, the ones who stand head and shoulders above all others, are Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).
Frankly, I love Augustine, but I’ve just never acquired a taste for Aquinas.
When I read Saint Augustine, it’s like he is a friend and who talks to me through the ages. I love his thought development and his brilliant way of cutting straight to the truth.
As I stated before, Saint Augustine was absolutely fascinated by the concept of time. In the final four chapters of Augustine’s book, CONFESSIONS, he states that time and eternity are totally separate orders. Time is a horizontal movement of human existence that is constantly in flux between the past, the present and the future.
Saint Augustine described what I’ve always thought of as “The Razor’s Edge Explanation of Time.” Basically, the past is an accumulation of all of the moments that were once the present. The future is a storehouse of present moments that have not yet happened. The fascinating thing is the present because it is with us for just a fleeting moment.
Basically, the present is a razor’s edge. And then it is gone forever.
SAINT AUGUSTINE’S VIEW OF ETERNITY
Like Aristotle, Saint Augustine concluded that time began with the beginning of the universe. He made a sharp distinction between the things that exist in time and space and those things that are outside of time and space. He stated that time as we know it is part and parcel of this creation, not something that applies to God.
In other words, God is beyond time; God is in what we mortals call “eternity.” Indeed, eternity is a timeless and boundless entity that we mortals cannot possibly comprehend.
Remember the little book that Vern gave me; the one entitled TIME? In the first chapter, when discussing Saint Augustine, the author made the following statement: “Eternity a state beyond time and space; a state that is beyond the imagination of man; eternity is the very dwelling place of God.”
Saint Augustine also developed an interesting thought by stating that eternity DOES NOT last forever, though that's how most of us think of eternity.
The point Augustine makes so well is that eternity lasts no time at all. He states that eternity “stands and does not pass”, that “in eternity nothing passes but all is present” and that “in eternity there is a condition of a never-ending present.”
This means that when one is in eternity, there is no past, there is no future, there is only the present … an endless now … a now that is without beginning or end.
Likewise, Augustine gives us an exceedingly articulate view of eternity; that entity is beyond space and time that, as the author of Vern’s little book states, “is the very dwelling place of God.”
GOD, SAINT AUGUSTINE AND STEVE THE WATCHMAKER
Obviously, as a small jewelry store owner, I wore many hats. I was a journeyman goldsmith, engraver, Graduate Gemologist (GG-GIA), diamond setter, salesman and watchmaker.
In the almost thirty years that I ran the store, it was the watchmaking that kept me constantly thinking about time and Saint Augustine’s description of its passage.
I repaired watches every single day and it was always a quiet time. It sounds strange, but after a few years “at the bench” my hands took on a life of their own. My hands and a small portion of my brain repaired the watches, but the greater amount of my consciousness was free to think.
Almost all of those long hours were spent in a special kind of contemplation. It’s hard to explain, but those were hours during which I was free to commune with Saint Augustine and … somehow, with God. In almost every way, I would call it a form of prayer; quiet, wonderful prayer.
Indeed, as long as we are mortal and upon this earth, we cannot understand God and His Works. Having said that, I truly believe that we can open our minds and invite God inside.
When we do that, we are totally at One with God.
And one wonderful and glorious day, we will be allowed to enter that place beyond time and space, that place that we mortals call eternity. And we will at long last be able to live eternally in the Loving Presence of God.
May God Bless You